Interview: Scott Miller Discusses New Album, New Band and Old Farming
"The wheels turn slow, especially when it's been four years between releases. Who knows if anyone cares?"
That's Scott Miller chatting with The Boot about his new album, Ladies Auxiliary. With four years under his belt since his last record, Miller says it feels weird to be gearing up for another album to hit the streets ... but that's not all that feels weird.
"Everything feels weird," he says. "I have no social skills, and I haven't had a drink in seven years, so reality comes hard and fast."
As fast as reality may come, though, Miller has been keeping busy in between albums.
"I raise cattle on a two hundred acre farm in the Shenandoah Valley," he tells us, adding, "That's a full-time job in and of itself. My parents, who are in their upper 80s, still live in the old farmhouse, too."
I guess anyone that farms does it because they love it, because you will not get rich doing it.
With farming, Miller's never considered whether he does it out of necessity or out of a love for the labor.
"I grew up doing it," he tells us. "I guess anyone that farms does it because they love it, because you will not get rich doing it."
Interestingly, he finds some similarities between farming and music, namely how "you put all the money you make back into it — you're working more to support your lifestyle than anything else. If you don't love it, you got no business doing it."
With all that requires his attention, it's easy to understand that he doesn't have much time to write and work on his music like he used to, back when his only focus was writing, recording, and touring.
"Those were good days," Miller remembers. "I get up not early, eat an egg sandwich, go to my writing space and work on songs. Some songs come all at once but those are rare; the rest you have to work at, and it takes about 10 pounds of crap to find one ounce of a line or idea. So it's work, and nice work, if you can get it."
Miller has never fit neatly into the stereotypical music "business." Ladies Auxiliary is a self-released album, something he's grown accustomed to.
"I was on labels, when they were relevant to me," he says. "Around 2007, it seemed that if I was gonna sell the same number of records every time — and depending on what publicist was hired, whether that happened in a few months or two years — why wouldn't I make the money minus cost of goods and keep more money?"
That's when Miller started F.A.Y. Recordings, short for "F--K ALL Y'ALL," and found someone to run it and he went out on his own.
"It's not as glamorous as the days on labels," he notes, "but I'm not either."
I write songs. I write songs for smart people. There's not many of us left. Anywhere.
Miller doesn't seem bitter toward labels or the industry. In fact, he had a great experience when he was on Sugar Hill.
"They were a great fit for me and I loved the people there and their catalog," he explains. "Then they got bought by Welk and they started running it like a major label. It was clear to me then I wasn't ever gonna be mainstream, or even tributary. I write songs. I write songs for smart people. There's not many of us left. Anywhere."
For Ladies Auxiliary, Miller decided to recruit a new band to help him tell his songs. After touring with Bryn Davies and Rayna Gellert over the last few years, he decided to just say, "I wanna record with you guys."
As soon as he had that conversation, he had to remind himself of a rule he instituted over a decade ago -- as he puts it so succinctly: "Don't. Ever. Produce. Yourself. Again." That rule led to him calling Anne McCue, whom he has known for years, dating back to when they shared the same booking agent.
"She had a rocking band, and I had the full Commonwealth at the time, and we toured our a--es off," Miller says. "I knew she could play, so wanting her on the record wasn't a stretch, but I asked her to produce it, and so she brought in Jeanne Richardson and Jen Gunderman. That's how we ended up with an all female lineup. Birds of a feather, don't you know ..."
While critics and fans alike will enjoy pointing out the fact that Miller is backing himself with a band of women, he doesn't think it's that big of a deal.
"This band is with me because they can play," he enthusiastically explains, "not because they play pretty good for girls. Listen, I grew up with sisters. It's not news to me that women are far superior to men in every way. Every way."
With a new band, though, comes a different sound, and a sound Miller personally thinks fits him perfectly for where he's at in life.
"I'm old, and I got things I wanna say, and thinks I want to get across and thinks I want to share with an audience," he tells us. "I enjoyed the hard rocking days. I enjoyed them very much. Did I say very much? I enjoyed the s--t out of them. But I'm not around the players anymore with the time it takes to make a band sound right, and to do what the end goal is anyway: to get the song across."
I enjoyed the hard rocking days. I enjoyed them very much. Did I say very much? I enjoyed the s--t out of them.
As for the future, when asked what's on the horizon, Miller quickly asks back, "What future? We shall see." The uncertainty lies around the success of Ladies Auxiliary, but Miller assures us if there's interest, he'll be out there giving the fans what they want.
"In January and February, the farm takes my time, so I'll do enough shows to keep the lights on around here," he says. "By the time spring rolls around and the cows are done calving, if the record has any traction and there is something follow, I shall endeavor to persevere ..."
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